Body language does the talking in Rann/Weatherill conference
South Australian education minister and premier-in-waiting Jay Weatherill stood side-by-side with boss Mike Rann yesterday as the premier announced he would be stepping down from the leadership on 20 October.
Yet despite the appearance of collegiality, it was difficult to watch the press conference without feeling a little uncomfortable about the sense of tension between the two men as Rann announced Weatherill as his heir-apparent.
For starters, Rann took ten minutes to acknowledge Weatherill’s presence.
And during the conference, Rann made no secret of the fact that his preferred time to leave the post was March 2012. Nor did he seek to sugarcoat his disappointment that details of a recent meeting, in which he committed to negotiate a timetable for stepping down upon returning from India, had been leaked “within minutes” of it taking place.
Still feeling awkward from the press conference, The Power Index put the footage to a body language expert to find out what, if anything, could be gleaned by the presence of the two men together.
David Alssema, the body language expert chosen, couldn’t give any wide-sweeping opinions about the body language of the two men based on the edited footage provided, but did make a couple of worthwhile observations.
For one, Rann’s continued direct line of sight into the audience signaled well-rehearsed lines (well he did have all week to think about it).
As for Rann’s continued shifting of his feet at the beginning of the conference, Alssema says that’s a signal of a man was attempting to become comfortable with his speech.
Next, came Weatherill who –- at least in part of the footage provided to Alssema –- appeared to offer a half-smile/smirk which Alssema said “can indicate smugness and arrogance”.
Alssema also made an observation about Weatherill’s stance: “The stance replicates someone who is to receive an award or standing in the public eye,” he said. “Placing the hands together in front of the body indicates submission/humility and is known to be used when being awarded.”
Still, having only seen a couple of minutes of the footage provided, Alssema did note that judgment of body language must be done in accordance with his mantra of “context, congruence and clusters”. Such a mantra requires some serious training in the art of body language detection but, at least when it comes to “context”, it’s difficult to ignore how the years of factional tensions that have plagued South Australia may have affected the two men’s moment in the spotlight together.